In a no-holds-barred rebuke from a federal judge who recently overturned California’s assault weapons ban, Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday called U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez a “gun lobby and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association.” “As reprimanded.
“We need to call this federal judge out,” the Democratic governor told reporters as he announced the state’s decision to appeal Benitez’s decision. “He will continue to do damage. Mark my words.”
Benitez last week lifted California’s three-decade-old ban on certain types of semi-automatic rifles, including the popular AR-15. gun control advocates Benitez skewered for decision, while Newsom called it “a direct threat to the public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period”.
In his decision, Benitez compared the AR-15 to a “Swiss Army knife” and described it as “the perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment”.
“This case is not about extraordinary weapons lying on the outer limits of Second Amendment protection,” he wrote. “It’s an average case for about average guns used in average ways for different purposes.”
according to a March analysis by Newsweek, 26% of the past 80 mass shootings in the US, including some of the deadliest, involved the use of an AR-15, which according to its manufacturers was designed to “maximum wound effect”
Yet Benitez wrote in his decision that “the ‘loss’ of an assault rifle used in a mass shooting is an infinitely rare event.”
“More people have died from the COVID-19 vaccine than from mass shootings in California,” he wrote without citing evidence.
Benitez also noted that “injuries from firearms such as the AR-15 that are banned as ‘assault weapons’ are no different from other firearms that are common in and of themselves.”
However, doctors have said something else.
Dr. Heather Sher, a Florida radiologist who has treated several gunshot wound victims, including the teen who was shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. Said in an op-ed That year “the bullets fired by the AR-15 … travel at greater velocity and are far more lethal than regular bullets fired from a handgun.”
“A typical AR-15 bullet travels up the barrel nearly three times as fast – and delivers more than three times the energy – than a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun,” Sher wrote. “The AR-15 rifle outfitted with a 50-round magazine allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.”
Benitez – In 2003 George W. Bush’s appointment – is no stranger to controversy, especially on the gun control front. In 2017, he reversed a state ban on the sale of large-capacity magazines containing more than 10 tablets; And in 2020, he blocked a law requiring background checks for those looking to purchase ammunition.
California is currently appealing both decisions.
On Thursday, Newsom described Benitez as a “stone-cold thinker” and the gun industry’s modesty.
“It is a very focused agenda to work through this judge, where the decision has already been presented, who writes the press release on behalf of the gun lobby,” the governor said.
Gun rights groups were quick to criticize Newsom’s choice of words.
The Firearms Policy Coalition said in a statement that it “condemns Governor Newsom’s outrageous and harsh personal attacks on Honorable Federal District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez.”
“Gavin Newsom’s Justice Department had the opportunity to present his facts in court—and failed to do so,” said C.D. Mitchell, president of the California Rifle and Pistol Association. told Politico. “Now that Judge Benitez has ruled against Gavin Newsom, he’s shamefully attacking a federal judge with political lies because Newsom got an outcome he didn’t like. Newsom can stretch whatever he wants. But the Constitution will win.”
Benitez had issued an automatic 30-stay of his decision, overturning the assault weapons ban, accepting the state’s inevitable appeal.
The case now goes to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals and could possibly end up before the Supreme Court, which currently has a 6-3 conservative majority.
“There’s a lot on the line,” Newsom said Thursday.